National Writing Project

Technology Teams Take Different Paths Toward the Same Goal

Date: July 2007

Summary: Technology teams at local sites can serve many purposes, from developing the site's website to bringing technology into its teachers' practices. This article describes how three sites used Technology Matters minigrants to expand their technological capacity.


Is all writing project work local, as the late Tip O'Neill once said of politics? Well not quite, but unquestionably a good part of it is. That notion describes the technology teams that have formed at writing project sites and the work they do.

Technology teams share a common goal: all members are dedicated to helping writing project site leadership meet local needs and priorities through the wise integration and implementation of technology. But while these tech teams generally have a similar purpose, the ways in which writing project sites have gone about establishing and using their technology teams are as nuanced as the sites themselves.

It's like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. You can build a tech team at your site with very little. You have the power all along; all you need to do is pull back the curtain.

To explore the varied ways technology teams emerge at sites, and consider the different purposes they serve, three writing project sites that had received minigrants after attending the 2005 Technology Matters institute—South Florida, Eastern Michigan and Red Mountain (AL)—cofacilitated a workshop at the 2006 NWP Annual Meeting called "Technology Teams: Moving Forward Together."

Starting at Ground Zero

Mike Record, tech liaison at the South Florida Writing Project, said they wanted to focus on two important concepts that had become clear to them over the course of establishing tech teams.

Of the first concept Record says, "We're different sites, with different personalities, and different needs." So tech teams perform different functions at different sites.

The second concept concerned the challenge of raising resources. After the Technology Matters institute concluded, South Florida, Eastern Michigan, and Red Mountain were eligible to apply for a minigrant to support the actualization of the planning and projects begun during the institute. Although the minigrant seed money was critical for their specific proposals, each of the three sites realized in the end that it is also possible to embark on similar paths with fewer resources.

To demonstrate this, the facilitators at the Annual Meeting workshop employed a hands-on activity in which groups of workshop participants were given different "budgets," from zero dollars to $10,000, and asked to map out a plan for the development of a tech team.

All the plans created, Record says, looked very similar at their core because each plan relied on human resources and expertise that already exist in abundance at writing project sites.

"It's like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz," he said. "You can build a tech team at your site with very little. You have the power all along; all you need to do is pull back the curtain."

Here are summaries of the paths taken by tech teams at Red Mountain, Eastern Michigan, and South Florida.

Red Mountain's Saturday Sessions

The Red Mountain Writing Project, under the guidance of technology liaison Cindy Adams, drew members for its tech team from its 2004 and 2005 summer institutes, the first two institutes for this relatively new writing project site.

The team collaborated over six Saturday workshops to increase the knowledge and skills of its members, who learned from each other the ins and outs of video logs, weblogs, digital stories, podcasts, and online conversations. The team then brought this new knowledge to the site's summer institute.

Inclusion Characterizes Eastern Michigan

The Eastern Michigan Writing Project and technology liaison Deb Hetrick developed a technology team primarily to focus on the site's website. The team also met four times over the course of a year to explore ways to support the integration of technology into the summer institute and into the site's professional development activities.

All the while they kept an eye on how these innovations might affect classroom practice. By including the site's leadership team in these conversations, the tech team helped other site leaders increase their knowledge and skills to the point where many people now contribute content for the website.

Back to Basics and More at South Florida

When Mike Record assembled his team for a retreat, he backed up a few paces. The group spent some time examining their knowledge about NWP's national networks, about their local site, and about the relationship between the two.

The group then went on to identify technology resources available to them and to develop a plan for infusing technology into the work of the site and the practice of the site's teachers. This led to the team's decision to focus specifically on integrating technology into a youth writing camp.

Moving Forward

Based on the success of the Technology Matters institute and of the programs funded by its minigrants, the Technology Liaisons Network plans to continue these offerings well into the future.

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